Soaring mental health conditions locking unemployed young people out of the job market warns new report

  • New research from Learning and Work Institute and The Prince’s Trust, supported by HSBC UK, reveals the barriers facing unemployed, and rising numbers of economically inactive, young people across the UK
  • Report highlights opportunity for almost half a million young people without a job to start work, if given the right support
  • New analysis of labour market data shows the proportion of out of work young people reporting a mental health problem has increased from 11 per cent in 2011 to almost a third (30 per cent) in 2022
  • Almost half (46 per cent) of young people without a job said they have additional mental health issues or caring responsibilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic which meant they were out of work

A new report, released today by the Learning and Work Institute and The Prince’s Trust, finds an increase in mental health conditions and low self-confidence are key factors preventing rising numbers of young people out of work from entering employment.

The report presents an opportunity for almost half a million (484,000) young people not in work, education or training (NEET) to get into work if given the right support. Supported by HSBC UK, the report is based on new labour market data analysis, a Kantar survey with NEET young people aged 16 - 24 from across the UK and two focus groups with young people.

New analysis of latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) data from 2021 shows a quarter (25 per cent) of young people who are NEET experience some form of mental health problem, compared with 9 per cent of those in employment. A wider analysis of Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) data suggests this figure is growing and could be higher. Since 2011 the number of NEET young people reporting a mental health problem has increased from one in ten (11 per cent) to almost a third (30 per cent) in 2022. This is significantly more than young people who are in education, employment or training (2 per cent in 2011 and 10 per cent in 2022).

The report also asks NEET young people why they are struggling to secure a job or not looking for work, with the most common response being due to a mental health problem or disability (39 per cent).

The polling also suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated these issues, with almost half (46 per cent) of young people stating they had additional mental and physical health issues or caring responsibilities due to the pandemic which meant they were out of work.

In addition to mental health, a quarter (25 per cent) of young people polled said that applying for lots of jobs without success was stopping them from securing work, and over a fifth (23 per cent) said low confidence was a key factor. Almost one in five (18 per cent) said they struggle with the job application or interview process.

Latest Annual Population Survey (APS) data shows that the number of unemployed young people combined with inactive young people who would like to work, reveals almost half a million (484,000) NEET young people who are able to and want to work.

These findings are supported by the polling, where almost three fifths (58%) of NEET young people said they are currently looking for work. Longer term, over 8 in 10 (84 per cent) said they had employment or career aspirations within the next three to five years.

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive at Learning and Work Institute said:

“Every young person deserves the chance to make the most of their talents, so supporting the hundreds of thousands of young people locked out of the jobs market must be a social justice priority. It’s also an economic imperative, given employers are hiring at record levels but still struggling to fill all their roles. With record vacancies, we need to tackle the issues uncovered by our new research to boost growth, improve our public finances, and help every young person reach their full potential.

“We continue to call on the Government to work with partners to support all young people to access a job, apprenticeship, or a high quality training opportunity.”

Jonathan Townsend, UK Chief Executive of The Prince’s Trust said:

“It is deeply troubling to see young people who struggle with mental health conditions and low self-esteem, still feeling locked out of the labour market. By building confidence, skills and supporting young people into work, we can improve their quality of life and boost our economy.

“In order to achieve this and reduce the squeeze on living standards, we need to fill the record number of vacancies. This report uncovers a group of young people who, with the right support from policymakers, employers and charities, can rise to that challenge.”

Michaela Wright, Head of Sustainability for HSBC UK, said:

“This research highlights the pandemic impacts on young people and the very important role the private sector has in helping them overcome these barriers. We know it’s a very challenging time for young people and employability programmes that offer additional support around mentoring, confidence and mental health are needed now, more than ever, to help them succeed and thrive.

“Together with The Prince’s Trust, we’re proud to have helped more than 52,000 young people access skills-training and employment opportunities that will help them succeed going forward, including in key sectors such as digital and the green economy."

When asked what would help with securing employment, the most common response was support to build confidence (38 per cent) and with mental health problems or disabilities (24%). Flexibility in hours was important for those job searching, particularly for individuals with a disability, physical or mental health problem, with almost half (46 per cent) stating this as a key factor compared to 35 per cent of those without.

The Prince’s Trust supports young people aged 11 to 30 who face the greatest disadvantage and adversity to build confidence and develop essential life skills to get ready for work and access job opportunities. The Trust has helped more than a million young people across the UK, and three in four of those supported over the last five years have moved into work, education or training.

For more information on The Prince’s Trust please contact Niall Mann on niall.mann@princes-trust.org.ukpress@princes-trust.org.uk 

or Helena Wysocki on Helena.wysocki@learningandwork.org.uk / 07856 687 133

Follow us on Twitter: @PrincesTrust

Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/princestrust

Download the report (pdf, 2mb)

Notes to Editors

This project has been informed by three main research activities:

  • Secondary data analysis using the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), Annual Population Survey (APS) and DWP benefits data.
  • An online poll of 200 young people who are NEET aged 16-24, undertaken in May-June 2022.
  • Youth voice activities, including a focus group conducted in June 2022 with five NEET young people aged 16-24, and a discussion at the Youth Employment Group’s Youth Voice Forum. The youth voice activities further explored barriers to employment for young people, their career aspirations and support needs.
  • Several different types of analysis were conducted. Time series analysis focused on the period from 2011 to the present, and therefore includes both pre- and post-pandemic data points. Cross-sectional analysis using pooled data (QLFS or APS) is predominantly pre-pandemic, but also includes data from the initial pandemic period (March to December 2020). Benefits analysis is based entirely on pre-pandemic data.
  • Although the target group of NEET young people was too small to achieve a representative sample, the poll included a good demographic mix including gender, ethnicity, disability and previous work experience.

Prince’s Trust. Youth Employment Group.

About The Prince’s Trust

The Prince’s Trust believes that every young person should have the chance to succeed, no matter what their background or the challenges they are facing. We help those from disadvantaged communities and those facing the greatest adversity by supporting them to build the confidence and skills to live, learn and earn.

The courses offered by The Trust help young people aged 11-30 to develop essential life skills, get ready for work and access job opportunities. We support them to find work because having a job or running a business can lead to a more stable, fulfilling life.

Since The Trust was founded by The Prince of Wales in 1976 we have helped more than a million young people across the UK, and three in four of those we supported over the last five years have moved into work, education or training.

We are committed to enabling even more young people to create a better future for themselves. By helping young people today, the benefits for them, their communities and the wider economy will be felt for years to come.

Further information about The Prince’s Trust is available at princes-trust.org.uk or on 0800 842 842.  

About Learning and Work Institute

Learning and Work Institute is a policy, research and development organisation dedicated to lifelong learning, full employment and inclusion.  

For more information about L&W please visit www.learningandwork.org.uk or call 07856 687 133

About HSBC UK

This report is supported by HSBC UK. In partnership with the Prince’s Trust since 2012, they have helped more than 52,000 young people access skills-training and employment opportunities, including in key sectors such as digital and the green economy.

HSBC UK serves around 14.75 million customers in the UK, supported by 24,000 colleagues.  HSBC UK offers a complete range of retail banking and wealth management to personal and private banking customers, as well as commercial banking for small to medium businesses and large corporates.